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Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Recipe: gougères

For some reason, I had this naive notion in my head that there was plenty of time to get all of the holiday, work, house, and social tasks done before leaving town. I hadn’t counted on losing three of those days to back pain which turned my three remaining days into an all out assault on my to-do list. Do you bakers ever think to yourself in the middle of mixing a batch of cookie dough, “Maybe I’ll just give them three kinds of cookies instead of four…”? Because I think that quite a bit – especially when I reach up to scratch my forehead and wind up leaving a smear of creamed butter and brown sugar where the itch was. Still, I stuck with four types of cookies and tossed in a batch of brittle at the last minute to boot! At some point around midnight, I looked up from the hundreds of cookies on cooling racks covering every known inch of counter space and said, “I hate cookies.” Jeremy, who was in the final stretch of his exam-grading marathon held his hand up, his gaze still fixed upon the exam, muttering, “I’ll commiserate with you in just a moment.”

Truth is, I love giving cookies to people and watching their faces light up with smiles. Cookies are miniature edible gifts. Kids love cookies, adults love cookies, strangers love cookies. Most are hand-delivered although a few get shipped. If I happen to see you in that 48-hour window of time between The End of Baking and when I leave town, you should probably expect cookies. Wednesday was the day to wrap up all business, clean the house (because it sucks to come back home to a dirty house), deliver cookies, pack for Crested Butte, and meet up with people I don’t get to see very often.


ramen lunch at oak with erin

happy hour selfie with my baby cousin!



My aunt, cousins, and cousin-in-law made a detour to Boulder en route to Vail for a happy hour get together. When Mom learned that her younger sister was going to be seeing us in Colorado, she instructed me to gift them a bunch of food stuffs because… well, because Chinese mothers always think you will starve. I tucked four kinds of cookies in the bag, too. My aunt was recovering from the flu and she apologized for not making some cookies to give us. I reassured her that cookies were the last things I wanted to see for a while. The hope is that my immediate future involves three flavors of skiing, savory snacks, and time spent with my guy. Now, if you are knee-deep in party season, I have a nice savory appetizer to share. It’s cheesy, elegant, and has a French name.

gougères: water, white pepper, flour, gruyère, eggs, salt, sugar, butter



Gougères are savory little baked puffs of choux pastry. It’s similar to the puffs in cream puffs, but these are baked with cheese. You can use all sorts of cheeses, but Gruyère is my favorite in gougères. They even rhyme!

combine the butter, sugar, salt, and water in a pan

add the flour all at once

quickly stir the flour into the liquid



**Jump for more butter**

with gravy on top

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Recipe: buttermilk biscuits and sausage cream gravy

Up until a few days ago, Thanksgiving was nowhere on my radar. There was just so much going on for the past several weeks that I told myself if I could make it to Thanksgiving week in one piece, I’d be golden. It came down to the wire waiting for the final items on my checklist to come via post before we piled into the car. Two out of three isn’t bad considering it was the USPS (I keep my expectations low). Once on the road, the stress began to peel away with each additional mile. There were bighorn sheep sightings on Interstate 70, discussion of time-sensitive deadlines to address before 2015, much needed coffee to fuel the driver (Jeremy), and the question of what to eat for Thanksgiving. We agreed that we would keep Thanksgiving dinner simple: grilled rib eye steak with loads of vegetables. This week is dedicated to catching up on work and… skiing.


picking up our passes from the crested butte nordic center



The snow in Crested Butte is quite nice for shoulder season. Yes, it’s still shoulder season – many of the local businesses are closed until 2 weeks before Christmas. Town slumbers quietly before the mad rush of the holiday ski season, but I like this lull. The big mountain opens Wednesday. In the meantime, we’ve been getting our nordic muscles back in shape on fresh snowfall.

test driving my low light lenses

big snow totals make for early season avy danger

jeremy skis with mount crested butte in the distance

rejoicing in glorious winter (technically autumn, but it is totally winter)



Colorado’s high country changes so dramatically from summer to autumn to winter – green to gold to white. Winter is a bit of a hog as it eats up most of autumn and spring, but I don’t complain because I love it. It’s hard to believe that just last month I was back here in Crested Butte shooting the fall colors.

Over the years I’ve learned that I feel physically and mentally better on the fall shoot if I eat my own food rather than dining out for the duration of the shoot. It’s healthier and more economical. But there are those times after shooting sunrise in the freezing cold when you get a text from fellow photogs relaying their intention to head into town for breakfast, and it sounds like the best idea ever. One of my favorite stops in the little mountain town of Ridgway, Colorado, is Kate’s Place, which serves up quality breakfast and lunch. My friend, Jimmy, always orders the biscuits and gravy. I’d never had it before, but Jimmy always has this blissful smile on his face when he gets biscuits and gravy. This year, I decided to give it a try.

“Good, isn’t it?” Jimmy smiled, nodding at my plate of biscuits and gravy. Yes, it was damn good. Something warm and satisfying to fill my empty and cold tummy – energy enough for my drive back to Crested Butte. It wasn’t more than four weeks later when I began thinking about that breakfast. I blame Jimmy… and Brent – those two are always mooning over biscuits and gravy. Jimmy even texted me a photo of (another) plate of biscuits and gravy from elsewhere on the road. Well, let’s do this.


the biscuits: buttermilk, baking soda, baking powder, salt, flour, butter

whisk the dry ingredients together

toss cubed butter with flour mixture and freeze

cut the butter into the flour



**Jump for more butter**

cuckoo for coconut

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Recipe: toasted coconut custard tart

It’s been snowing on and off since last week. Exciting, right? But you can’t go ski just any snow. We had received several inches of fluffy, dry snow on top of bare ground, which meant there was no base to speak of. Rather than being overeager and rutting my skis, I opted for a trail run when we finally got out of single digits. I’m so glad I waited, because the sun came out and helped pack down the snow on the trails, and then we got more snow. What a lovely pair of words… MORE SNOW. Despite 11°F and nasty winds over the weekend, we got our first ski tour of the season in (rather late) and it was fantastic!


rosy sunrise

the sun is far more welcome in winter

jeremy makes his way through snowy trees

so happy that winter finally decided to show up



Snow on the ground is a wonderful thing. Jeremy and I began longing for ski season about 2 weeks after our last ski tour in mid may. Despite all of the trail running and hiking and biking and backpacking of summer, I feel like I’m stronger in winter. I burn more calories, too! We don’t feel as guilty indulging in a little dessert during the cold weather months. But even if you aren’t a ski dork like me, I tell you what – this toasted coconut custard tart is worth making and eating. Just give yourself an extra hour of walking.

for the tart crust: egg, butter, salt, flour, confectioner’s sugar

pulse the butter into the dry ingredients

drizzle in some egg yolk

the dough should clump together, but remain grainy



**Jump for more butter**